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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

“Yankees,” on deck for tour in Iraq

Staff Sgt. Jesse Vautour of Shrewsbury, Mass., assists Staff Sgt. Steven Mojica of Worcester, Mass.,
as he prepares his M2 caliber .50 machine gun for the days training. Both Soldiers are preparing to
deploy with the 1/181st Infantry, Massachusetts Army National Guard as part of a command and control
group charged with overseeing security elements.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Don Veitch, 65th Public Affairs Operations Center)
Here’s a story I wrote about another Mass Guard Unit deploying at the same time as us.


FORT DIX, N.J. – Morning arrives with the sudden chime of the alarm clock, yet sunrise is still hours away. The workday will be well underway before the first rays of summer sun appear on the horizon.
With little fanfare, the Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment file out of their barracks, form up and conduct the timeworn tradition of physical training. The steady drumbeat sound of the Soldiers’ footfalls as they run to cadence is indistinguishable from other units throughout the country. Soldiers have started the day in this manner for generations.
Counted among the five oldest units in the U.S. military, the 1/181st has centuries of experience training and deploying troops to aid in America’s defense. For the first time, the 1/181st is set to deploy directly to a combat theater in support of the Global War on Terrorism. A command and control group of more than 25 Massachusetts Soldiers arrived at Fort Dix on June 20 to mobilize in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The unit, commanded by Lt. Col. Michael Finer of Swampscott, Mass., will serve as a rear area operations center and be designated the 181st RAOC.
The 1/181st have focused their training on military decision-making and tactical operations. “We’re unusual, where we focus on both the base defense and the mayor’s cell,” said Finer. In the past, security and the mayor’s cell were overseen by separate units. The mayor’s cell manages the daily operations of a forward operating base. “We’re working hard to understand forward operating base doctrine,” said Finer, “and to how it applies to a static defense.”
“Overall the mission is not your typical infantry task. We’ll be overseeing other security force elements at a forward operating base,” said 1st Lt. Brian McNeil, force protection battle officer.
McNeil, a Shrewsbury, Mass., native, has been in the 1/181st for two years and is on his first deployment. “Getting validated is a daunting task; I feel we’re ready for anything though. The training is very similar to an everyday drill for us,” he said.
“The support has been good, and the unit assistors have been very helpful,” McNeil added.
“It seems fitting that we’re adding another chapter to the unit’s proud history, but it has been very tough on the closest members of my family,” said McNeil on his first deployment.
The 1/181st’s lineage dates back to 1636 when it was formed as part of the Massachusetts Militia. The unit participated in the King Phillip’s War, defending against raids conducted by Native Americans. More notable was the battle of Concord and Lexington, where Paul Revere led the regiment against the British.
The unit again answered the call during the Civil War, charged with defending the nation’s capital before later action in Virginia. The regiment next saw action in Cuba in 1898, a land they would revisit more than a century later, during the Spanish-American War. In 1907 the 1/181st formally became a member of the National Guard.
The 1/181st fought in World War I in northern France, the Rhineland, the Ardennes Forest, and across Europe in World War II as member of the 26th “Yankee” Division. The 26th Infantry division was deactivated in 1991, and the 1/181st became part of the 29th Infantry Division.
With Sept. 11 and the Global War on Terrorism, elements of the 1/181st were among the first units mobilized for homeland defense. In Sept. 2003 the battalion returned to Cuba and supported Joint Task Force Guantanamo.
Reorganized under the 26th Infantry Brigade, the unit has returned to wearing the famous “YD” patch of the Yankee Division.
“These Yankees don’t suck” is boldly displayed on barracks’ doors, demonstrating the Soldiers’ pride in their unit’s legacy while poking fun at the main rival of the Boston Red Sox.
Truer words may never be spoken.

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